Everyone needs a good gingerbread recipe in their repertoire; this is a classic, and can be used for gingerbread men or any other shape. If you want to hang them, poke a hole with a straw near the top of each cookie before baking, and slide a string or ribbon through after they cool. Decorate with royal frosting, which will harden and not be sticky. To make chocolate gingerbread, swap about 1/3 cup of the flour for cocoa.
Back to school time is cookie season for us – I don’t know whether I make them out of self-preservation or to fill lunchboxes. Everyone needs a little comforting treat when summer comes to an end, and I like baking a batch of cookies on the weekend to wrap and tuck into lunch boxes all week. Sometimes, when I’m really on the ball, I’ll make and freeze balls of dough so I have something to slide into the oven after school – there’s nothing like walking in the door after a long day and the house smells like chocolate. Bonus: with a stash of dough, you can bake a few at a time in the toaster oven, and not have a couple dozen to eat your way through.
To freeze and bake, freeze balls on a sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag; take them out, place them on a parchment-lined sheet and let them sit while the oven preheats, then bake as directed.
I love a good chewy bar, like a brownie only without the chocolate – these are essentially blondies, rich with butter and brown sugar, which acts as a blank canvas you could add anything to. These are made with crunchy nuts and chewy dates, which are a winning combination.
Soft Medjool dates are most often found in the produce department of the grocery store, and have pits that are easy to remove, but mean they stay soft, unlike the hard bricks of dates you so often find in the baking section.
I’ve made these with soft brown sugar, but one time when I was out I used turbinado – the result was still sweet and caramelly, with a slightly crunchy texture I loved. They’re so fast to mix together, they may become your new go-to when you need a quick dessert or comforting after school snack. (After all, there’s nothing like coming home to the smell of something baking.)
Gail Hall has been a positive force on the Alberta culinary scene for decades – she was an award-winning caterer, broadcaster, food writer, educator and international culinary tour guide who knew everyone and shared everything from her cooking school and loft on 104th Street in Edmonton. We’ve known her for years, and like most others who knew her, have been inspired by not only her work, but her infectious energy and enthusiasm. She has done so much to build our culinary community, to teach home cooks and support new (and established) chefs.
Sadly, Gail passed away in November, but this past weekend her husband Jon along with her many friends and family members held a celebration of her life – a potluck, of course, and we baked a batch of her almond biscotti to bring along. Thanks Gail, for all the delicious things you’ve shared, and for bringing so many people together around the table.
‘Tis the season for holiday cookies, and this year these chewy Chocolate-ginger Molasses Crinkles have become one of our go-to recipes for Christmas cookie exchanges. They’re easy to make, fun for kids to roll in sugar, and combine warm cinnamon and ginger with deep chocolate flavour. The recipe makes over 2 dozen, so there’s enough to package up and give away, plus a few to nibble on! Cookies are also perfect for teachers, coaches and other people kids want to thank at this time of year.
Make sure you don’t overbake these; they need to stay chewy. They should be set around the edges, but still soft in the middle – they’ll firm up as they cool.
I am very much a fan of the brownie – the dense, slightly chewy kind, with a crackly top – I think I’d choose one over a slice of cake any day. So last night, when our friend, food writer Gwendolyn Richards, showed up at an event we were cooking for with a pan of her brownies with sea salt and lime, I took note. (And a brownie.) They were exquisite.